2017 Guimaro, Mencia, Camino Real, Ribeira Sacra D.O. Galicia, Spain.
One of my favorite producers and wines, Guimaro, made by Pedro Rodriguez, makes red and white wines in the Ribeira Sacra region of Spain’s Galicia provence, based in the Amandi zone, one of the Ribeira Sacra’s best subzones with a south facing exposure set on slate soils, known as Losa, to natives here. These steep vineyard sites are back-breaking hard to work, with everything done by hand, they look more like frightening slopes in Mosel than what you’d expect in Spain, looking down upon the Sil river. This 100% whole cluster 2017 is full flavored with flinty earthy tones showing briar accented raspberry, huckleberry, plum, cherry and cranberry fruits, a touch of smoke, leather, mineral iron and anise, along with a delicately sweet floral essence that balances out the savory elements and dusty dry tannins. Mencia has qualities that remind you of the northern Rhone, but is brighter like Pinot or Gamay with a similar lively personality. The 2017 vintage is ripe, but full of natural acidity and takes a few swirls in the glass to reveal its true depth and textural quality, it is a wine that certainly benefits from simple country cuisine and robust dishes. Pedro’s wines are real, honest and terroir driven with the reds being made mostly from Mencia and the white crafted from Godello, ancient native grapes that require extra care and TLC to make world class wines, which he does at this small winery set in this remote place that was once highly prized by the Romans, who named it the Sacred Banks (Ribeira Sacra) and planted vines on the historic terraces. I have tasted with Pedro a few times, when he has traveled to California, I helped do a tasting with him and even though his English is limited, enjoyed his company and sense of humor almost as much as his wines. I hope to one day get myself over to this part of Spain and see him again, it is without question on my bucket list, his wines really speak to me and I can’t imagine not having a few bottles around for nights I need a smile.
The Rodriguez’s have been farming here for generations and before 1991, Pedro’s family made wine mainly for their own consumption and sold small amounts in garrafones, which are 20 liter glass containers, to friends and to a couple of local cantinas, bars that offer the day’s family meals and maybe a room for a lost wanderer, as very few visit this area, as it is way off the beaten path. I mention all this because the wines from Guimaro, which means “rebel” in Gallego (the local dialect), reflect this, they are wines of rustic charm and character from a region that humbly respects and honors the power of nature, they are wines of place, especially the series of single parcel wines like this Camino Real bottling, from all organic 40-60 year old vines set on the slate with a mix of sand, quartz and granite with a field blend of about 85% Mencía plus tiny amounts of Merenzao, Mouratón, Brancellao, Caiño, Sousón and Alicante Bouschet. In the cellar, Pedro, who was mentored by the legendary Raul Perez, keeps things simple, natural and non intervention in style, employing native or indigenous yeast, spontaneous fermentations in open-top wood vats and long macerations, with this Camino Real seeing a 40 maceration and primary fermentation on the skins, after which the wine was raised in a combination of used oak from large foudre to small used barrique and bottled with ultra low sulfur, unfined and unfiltered. Not always polished, these wines are authentic and compelling in their purity, they are without pretense and better for it. With air, this dark ruby/garnet wine gains more layers and a darker sense of fruit and herbs with the feeling of whole bunches and stems coming through all of which excites the medium bodied palate, this is a wine that couldn’t be made anywhere else and I love that unique joy it brings, I highly recommend finding these Guimaro wines. I suggest starting with Guimaro’s entry level bottling, great for everyday drinking and these single vineyard efforts for more serious meals and don’t overlook the Blanco (Godello) it is crisply Chablis like and awesome with sea foods.
($30 Est.) 92 Points, grapelive